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British prime minister reshuffling Cabinet

BRITISH Prime Minister Gordon Brown was reshuffling his Cabinet today after a string of resignations and signs that his Labour Party did poorly at the polls for European and local elections.

Brown's Downing Street office said a change of the senior governing team was under way.

The changes come a day after Work and Pensions Secretary James Purnell dramatically resigned and called for Brown to step down as well. Purnell, 39, was seen as a fast rising star in the governing Labour Party, but said in his resignation letter that he is not seeking to lead the party himself.

He announced his resignation late Thursday as polls closed in European Parliament and local English elections, in which Labour is expected to do badly. Early results from local authority elections showed Labour losing seats to the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats.

Friday's Cabinet shuffle is being seen as Brown's last chance to assert his authority over his fractious party or face ouster.

Brown took over from Tony Blair two years ago. He gained praise for his handling of the global economic crisis, but his government has been hammered by weeks of leaked details about lawmakers' expense claims, which have fueled public anger at politicians.
Many Labour politicians now see Brown as an obstacle to the party's chances of avoiding defeat in the next national election, which must be held by mid-2010.

Opposition leader David Cameron said the government was falling apart.

"With this resignation, the argument for a general election has gone from being strong and powerful to completely unanswerable," he said.

Some of Brown's backers fought back. Health Secretary Alan Johnson said he thought Brown should stay and called for Labour Party unity.

The results from Thursday's local elections are due out by midday today.


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